Chinese technology powers Montenegro’s energy ambitions

The wind constantly sweeping over the bare hilltops overlooking the Montenegrin seaside resort of Utjeha has now found a new “use.”

Today, on the slopes of Mt. Mozura between the southern municipalities of Bar and Ulcinj stand 23 smart turbines. Final procedures are underway to incorporate the electricity generated by the wind farm into the power grid.

The Mozura Wind Park, whose construction started in November 2017, results from China-Malta-Montenegro cooperation within the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The 92-million-euro (around 105 million U.S. dollars) investment with a 46-MW capacity is set to stabilize local power supply and help the country better harness its rich renewable energy resources.

“We are used to electricity shortages,” said Sasa Kekic, a local employee at the project. “Many people here hope that in the future we will not have to import electricity, but to produce our own.”

In a recent interview with MINA News Agency, Montenegrin Minister of Economy Dragica Sekulic called the Mozura wind farm a “major step towards a more secure and stable supply of the coastal area with electricity.”

It “will significantly contribute to the development of tourism in Montenegro, (and the) construction of bigger and better hotels and private accommodation,” said Darko Mijovic, a 52-year-old local. “This will be of value to the whole country.”

Montenegro has been heavily dependent on its hydropower plants, whose output varies depending on climate conditions. This instability often forces the country to import significantly more energy than planned.

Montenegro is on the road to energy independence and the Mozura wind farm “has become an important symbol in the Balkan region,” said Sheng Baojie, chairman of Malta Montenegro Wind Power JV, a Chinese-Maltese consortium that is the builder of the farm.

In the Energy Balance for 2019 adopted by the Montenegrin government last December, the farm is expected to produce 110 GWh this year, helping increase the share of wind electricity in national power generation to 9 percent and that of all renewable-source electricity to 61 percent.

“Renewable energy sources, whether hydro-energy, solar energy or wind energy, are our greatest development potential,” Ivan Mrvaljevic, director for development and engineering at the Montenegro Electric Enterprise, was quoted as saying in the company’s monthly magazine.

Sanja Orlandic, program coordinator for energy at Green Home, a nongovernmental organization, told Xinhua that it is important for Balkan countries to decarbonize the energy sector and increase the share of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“Otherwise, the survival of the regional countries when it comes to energy, as well as the fulfillment of EU agenda when it comes to the quality of air, energy and climate, is not possible,” she said.

The Mozura project was carried out by a Chinese management of 10 people and around 500 local employees, in addition to cooperation with local companies.

Gavrilo Bozovic, a local employee, told Xinhua that the project, employing many contractors and local people, has boosted the economy of Bar and Ulcinj.

Like many others, Bozovic got a permanent job and received training alongside Chinese engineers.

“I am surprised how they welcomed us locals here, how much they care about our safety and are willing to teach us everything about the work, so that we could stay and work on the maintenance of windmills in the future, and do everything here by ourselves,” he said.